It is true enough that in Russia writers with serious grievances are arrested, while in America they are merely featured on television talk shows where all that is arrested is their development. This is an important difference, but it does nothing to change the fact that grievance is the source of all interesting prose. Without grievance, a writer tends to become a celebrant, which is an agreeable but repetitious state. After you have sung two choruses of “God Bless America,” what else is there to say?
If this is so, and I think it often is, why should it be? Are we naturally belligerent and inclined to argument? Or does our lust for novelty prod us to differentiate ourselves from others, thus leading to contrast and conflict? Why is it so difficult to be interesting without being provocative?